God’s Design of Fall

God’s Design of Fall

In the Northern Hemisphere, we have just entered the period we call autumn or fall. Summer has ended. Earth’s axis tilt and its path around the Sun cause the Sun to be directly overhead at the equator. We refer to this as the equinox, which is Latin for “equal nights.” Thus, at this time, we have approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. As a new season begins, we see God’s design of fall.

For those living in the northern hemisphere, this time brings amazing things to see among the plants and animals around us. Tree leaves turn from green to a cascade of colors. They don’t all turn at the same time because of their system design. Some measure the length of the day and start turning colors when the equinox occurs. Others depend on temperature to change colors. In addition, we see fruits and nuts come to full maturity at this time, providing food for animals and ensuring the future growth of new plants.

We see God’s design of fall as animals prepare for winter. With the temperature change, some animals migrate to warmer areas. This movement coincides with the abundance of fruits and nuts, allowing nutrition for the journey. Some animals, such as hummingbirds, leave well ahead of freezing temperatures. Other animals change their color in preparation for winter camouflage in the snow. Still others retreat into a place underground where the temperatures will not drop below freezing.

The question is, how do all these plants and animals know when to do that? It cannot be a conscious, planned adjustment by the animals to the local situation. Many of the changes happen even before the cold weather arrives. Certainly, plants don’t think about cold weather coming and their need to prepare for freezing conditions. Some of the changes seem to be designed to provide humans with a sensation of beauty. A sea of green becomes a splendor of color as the plants eliminate chlorophyll “A” (which gives them their green color) to reveal various colored chemicals in the leaves.

Fall is not just about beauty, but it also brings amazing and beneficial changes. Plants that survive the winter are able to free themselves of insects and bacteria that can damage them. Some animals prepare for winter by fattening up to go into hibernation. Bears give birth during this period. God’s design of fall is a functional system that speaks of God’s wisdom.

We can see God’s wisdom and design in a unique way at this time of year. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” To those of us who listen, fall speaks of the purposes of God in His living things.

The Church’s Task Is to Help People – Not Harm Them

The Church’s Task Is to Help People – Not Harm Them

Some religious people have claimed that taking the COVID vaccine is a response to fear. They have posted that idea online and in publications, saying that you won’t get sick from the virus if you have faith in God. This is a sad commentary on human ignorance of medical facts, the Bible, and how God works. It also shows a lack of understanding that the Church’s task is to help people. We need to follow 1 John 4:1: “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they come from God.”

The history of “Christians” and vaccines is not good. They have sometimes been responsible for opposition to vaccines for smallpox, measles, and polio. This ignorance is destructive because vaccines have saved many lives. As Christians, we must do whatever we can to minister to the lost. One way to do that is to make sure we do nothing that harms people. My son died because a man who claimed to be a Christian didn’t care enough about him to get a vaccine or wear a mask so he wouldn’t carry the virus to him.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who labor … and you shall find rest…” The Church is people, not a building (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Church’s task is to help people, not harm them. When Jesus was on Earth, He acted when humans could not. In Luke 5:4-9, when Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus told him to let down his net again. When he did, his catch was amazing.

Miracles in both the Old and New Testaments challenged humans to apply what God gave them. When the prophet Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, he resisted that silly requirement. But when Naaman did it, his leprosy (the COVID of that day) was cured (2 Kings 5). God has given humans the ability to stop the virus, but we must use what He has given us.

The Bible makes it clear that God does not use force to accomplish His will. Even salvation is not forced on humans. In Acts 2:38-40, Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” The Church’s task is to help people by sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus. Read Colossians 2:13-3:2 and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the world driven by fear and selfishness, even in the name of religion? Christians must care enough about others and about “the temple of the Holy Spirit” to make sure we do no harm to either.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards and Toys

People have a fascination with wood, and we admire the beauty of wooden tables and furniture. Our love for wood is not just aesthetic because wood is also very practical for many uses. However, some people were concerned about bacteria on wooden toys and especially food contamination by bacteria on wooden cutting boards. For that reason, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended using plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones.

The USDA said that it seemed to be common sense that non-porous surfaces like plastic would be less likely to hold bacteria and would be easier to keep clean and germ-free. For years, they advised against wooden cutting boards. However, they had to admit that they had no scientific studies to support that recommendation. It was just common sense.

Microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison tried to find decontamination techniques to make wood as safe as plastic. They found that if they inoculated wooden boards with either salmonella, listeria, or E.coli (all food poisoning agents), 99% of the bacteria were gone after 12 hours at room temperature. However, when they treated a plastic surface in the same way, the bacteria count increased after 12 hours. The bottom line is that, when left overnight, the bacteria on plastic multiplied, but the bacteria on wooden cutting boards died.

The researchers concluded that “wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be.” They proved that wood has anti-bacterial properties that plastic polymers don’t have. The researchers tested maple, birch, beech, black cherry, basswood, butternut, and American black walnut with the same results. Also, they found that bacteria on wooden cutting boards died whether the wood was new or old.

There are two things we can learn from this experiment. First, the USDA officials said they based their recommendation of acrylic or other non-porous materials on common sense and not scientific data. They had not done any research. When the scientific data came in, it showed that common sense was wrong. This is an excellent example of why we should “follow the science.” Secondly, for thousands of years, people had cut meat and prepared foods on surfaces made of the natural wood that God gave us. This experiment shows that the Designer of wood knew what He was doing.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

References: You can read more about the research HERE and HERE.

The Doctrines of Dispensational Premillennialism

The Doctrines of Dispensational Premillennialism

We have had many articles in our journal and on this website about the doctrines of dispensational premillennialism. Not only does this doctrine create conflict with scientific evidence, but it presents political claims that threaten peace and harmony. Many people who call themselves “creationists” have adopted this human doctrine that conflicts with the Bible, common sense, and scientific evidence. We have discussed the scientific issues in our booklet “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word,” available free on doesgodexist.org.

Here is an example of the political aspect from a recent Google advertisement that showed up on various websites:

“The Bible says in Revelation Chapters 9 & 16 that during end times a 200 million man army from the East will come to make war against Israel & Her Allies (Armageddon). They will come from China & Her allies (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Taliban, etc.) and will come through the Kyber Pass into and through Afghanistan and follow the dried up Euphrates River Valley across Iran and Iraq into the Middle East! A third of mankind will die! Jesus will come back to earth physically to fight for His people and establish His earthly kingdom.”

I would encourage you to read Revelation chapters 9 and 16 to see how much imagination the ad’s author used to present the doctrines of dispensational premillennialism as fact. This ad warning is a human fabrication, and those two chapters mention none of those countries. In the first verse of Revelation, the apostle John wrote that the purpose is “to show to the servants of Christ things which must shortly come to pass.” However, twisting the Bible to fit a human doctrine that embraces the 21st-century situation puts Christianity at odds with science and makes a political statement about war, hatred, militarism, and physical conflict.

Jesus confronted worldly political thinking as people tried to portray Him as a political figure opposed to Caesar. In Matthew 22:17-21 and Luke 20:22-25, Jesus made it clear that giving to God and giving to Caesar are two different things and should not be mixed or confused. In John 18:36, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but my kingdom is not of this world.”

Before accepting the interpretations of those preaching the doctrines of dispensational premillennialism, examine what the Bible actually says.

— John N. Clayton ©

An excellent commentary on Revelation is Revelation’s Rhapsody by Robert A. Lowery, published by College Press.

A Lesson in Perspective from the Moon

A Lesson in Perspective from the Moon

“It all depends on how you look at things.” You hear that common phrase applied to many kinds of issues. If you doubt that, here is a lesson in perspective from the Moon. First, let’s look at the facts about the Moon and what we think we see when we look at it. Astronomer Bob Berman’s article In the October issue of Astronomy magazine contains some interesting facts comparing what we see and reality. 

How big is a full moon? Berman points out that it would take 180 full moons stacked on top of each other to fill the space between the horizon and a point directly overhead. The Moon is very small from our perspective, even though it appears large, especially when it’s near the horizon. How much brighter is the Sun than a full moon? The answer is that the Sun is 450,000 times more luminous. The Moon is a very dim object, just a little brighter than coal and much dimmer than dark green leaves. If you remember albedo from your high school physics class (the proportion of the incident light reflected by a surface), the Moon’s albedo averages 11, and a dark green forest is 15. Charcoal is 5.

Why does the Moon look so bright on a clear night when the Moon is at full phase? The answer is a lesson in perspective. Our eyes are designed to give measures of brightness based on what surrounds the object we’re observing. From our perspective, when we look at the Moon, we see an object in front of a black background. Our brain tells us that the Moon is white because its surroundings are completely black. 

Astronauts have been to the Moon and found that most of its surface is basalt, a black volcanic rock. Basalt reflects very little of the light coming to it from the Sun. So compared to Venus or Jupiter, which have clouds efficiently reflecting light from the Sun, the Moon is a dim and dark object. 

On a human level, there is a lesson in perspective. An old joke tells about the response a man gave when asked if his wife was beautiful. He responded, “Compared to what?” The same issue arises when someone asks if Christianity offers any advantage to a person or the world in general. Compared to all human philosophies, the answer has to be that the world and humanity have benefitted from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We are talking about the actual teachings of Christ, not the perversions such as the Crusades, the inquisitions, or ethnic struggles. What have atheism and secular humanism done to benefit the people of the world?

Jesus gave a lesson in perspective in Matthew 5:14-16 when he said, “You are the light of the world … let your light so shine before mankind that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The Sun is the source of the small amount of light we get from the Moon. Jesus is the source of the light we give to the world. The question for those of us who are Christians should be, “What is our albedo?” How much of what Jesus shines on us do we reflect on a very dark planet?

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Bearded Vulture – A Bone Eater

The Bearded Vulture – A Bone Eater

The bearded vulture is a large bird found in mountainous areas of southern Europe, Africa, and Tibet. It is known in some areas as the lammergeier or ossifrage. However, it is also known for the fact that it deliberately uses mineral-rich dust and mud to dye its feathers red for reasons still unknown.

Our interest in this bird is centered around its diet. This bird eats bones. When it finds a dead animal, the bearded vulture will drag out a large bone and carry it several hundred feet in the air and drop it on some rocks, smashing the bone into smaller pieces. The bird will then pick up the pieces, one at a time, and swallow them. The bearded vulture apparently has the strongest stomach acid in the animal kingdom. The bones they digest supply all the minerals and vitamins the bird needs to survive.

A program called “Snow Wolf” on the BBC included a section on bearded vultures because they follow wolves in the mountains. When the wolves make a kill, the bearded vulture will wait until the wolves have eaten all of the meat. Then they will start picking up the remaining bones to eat them.

The BBC broadcasts various programs on the unique living things that exist on planet Earth. While the BBC is not sympathetic to any kind of religious concept, many of the stories they present show evidence of design in the creation. One fact about the world in which we live is that in the natural world, nothing goes to waste. Even hard materials like bones are disposed of in some way. The bearded vulture provides one way bones are recycled. We need to learn how to return human-created waste materials to the environment from which they came without polluting it. Ultimately our survival will depend on doing that.

John N. Clayton © 2021

You can see a short BBC video showing bearded vultures at work HERE.

Plasma – The Fourth State of Matter

Plasma – The Fourth State of Matter

Plasma is the least understood state of matter. We are not talking about biological material but an unstable soup of electrons, positive ions, and atoms. After solid, liquid, and gas, plasma is the fourth state of matter, and it makes up 99.9% of the universe. The Sun is a ball of plasma along with some gas. The northern and southern lights are plasma. We see plasma in lightning and in the plasma globes in museum gift shops. In recent years, scientists have produced plasma, and engineers have used it to make the chips used in computers, automobiles, television sets, and musical greeting cards. Plasma also stimulates the light we get from fluorescent lamps and neon signs.

In the 19th century, the Finnish physicist Karl Selim Lemström noticed that fir trees near the Arctic Circle grew faster when the aurora borealis was the strongest. From that beginning, scientists have found that not only does plasma enhance plant growth, but it also can kill the pathogens of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In addition, some experiments have indicated that plasma can stimulate the growth of blood vessels in animal’s skin.

Experiments in various countries have shown that seeds treated with plasma germinate and sprout more quickly. Other scientists are experimenting with sending an electric current through the air to create plasma, releasing ionized nitrogen, which plants need for growth. Those nitrogen ions can dissolve in plasma-treated water that can both irrigate and fertilize plants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, is experimenting with using plasma in agriculture to replace chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides.

The early Earth had the right environment for plasma production
, which could have stimulated plant growth in the sea and on land. This new understanding of plasma is one more testimonial to the wisdom built into the creation. The fact that 99.9% of all matter in the cosmos is plasma emphasizes how precious the physical design of our planet is. The solid matter which makes up the Earth is nurtured by liquid water, gaseous air, and plasma.

The more we know of the creation, the more we understand the power and wisdom of the Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). When we see the Sun, the stars, the galaxies, the northern lights, and the lightning, we see plasma, a tool God uses to shape the creation and mold the world around us.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for September 11, 2021, pages 18-22.

The Irrationality of Hell

The Irrationality of Hell

Atheists and skeptics often refer to “the irrationality of hell.” The main problem with this challenge is that they fail to study what the Bible actually says and take it literally. The simple truth is that hell is not a physical place but a condition. Therefore, we must understand the biblical descriptions as showing us what hell is like but not understanding it in physical terms. Furthermore, the description should convince us that we want to avoid hell’s “eternal punishment.”

Much of the biblical language concerning hell is a metaphor of the Valley of Ben Hinnomben hinnom in Hebrew and gehenna in Greek. It was a deep and narrow ravine south of Jerusalem that had a long and sordid history. In that valley, parents sacrificed their children as burnt offerings to the pagan god Molech (2 Kings 23:10). It was also known as “the valley of slaughter” because of human sacrifice carried on there (Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:2,6; 32:35). The valley became the Jerusalem garbage dump where people incinerated waste materials and dead animals, and the fires continually smoldered. The New Testament refers to it 12 times as a place of wickedness. That includes eleven times by Jesus and once by James. Modern translations render it as “hell.” (See Matthew 5:22, Mark 9:43-47, Luke 12:5, and James 3:6.)

The biblical references describing hell use the worst descriptions humans can imagine. It is called “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15; 21:8), and “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13). Brimstone is sulfur that produces toxic “rotten egg” fumes as it burns. In Mark 9:46-48, Jesus said that in hell, “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” The word used for worm here refers to a maggot that feeds on dead things. When Jesus described hell, He said that those in hell will be “gnashing their teeth” (Matthew 13:42 and 50). This is not a reference to pain but an expression of anger. (See Acts 7:54 and Job 16:9.)

Hell is essentially God’s garbage dump, and like any garbage dump, it is a place of destruction. The destruction in hell is eternal and everlasting, as you can see in passages such as Matthew 10:28 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9. The irrationality of hell is why anyone would choose to go there.

–John N. Clayton © 2021

For more see “A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife” by Dr. Timothy Gordon pages 109-122. ISBN 9781082882593. Read our review HERE.

Some Form Of Life Can Exist Anywhere?

Some Form Of Life Can Exist Anywhere?
Mount Shackleton in Antarctica

We read the media reports about efforts to find life on Mars, on various moons in our solar system, or planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. These reports often give the impression that some form of life can exist anywhere we look in the cosmos. For example, on Earth, we find life in sea vents on the ocean floor and geysers in Yellowstone National Park, leading people to suggest that some form of life can exist anywhere. Add to that the presence of organic molecules in asteroids, and they say that life is out there if we just look in the right places and in the right way.

Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences published a study of 204 soil samples taken from mountains near the Shackleton Glacier in Antarctica. Scientists had predicted that this soil would contain microbes, as is true of soil samples all over the Earth. Instead, they found that 20% of the soil samples, those taken from the higher and dryer locations, had no detectable microbial life. The study seems to indicate that extreme cold and dry conditions can render an area devoid of life. Noah Fierer, one of the scientists involved with the study, said that this might be the first time scientists have found soils that did not support microbial life anywhere on Earth.

The idea that some form of life can exist anywhere in every kind of environment is an evolutionary assumption that is apparently incorrect. We know that extreme cold and dry conditions exist on Mars and many moons in our solar system. Assuming there is life elsewhere because it is so abundant on Earth and some bacteria do well in extreme conditions does not mean there is no limit to where life can exist. 

We have said many times that there might be life elsewhere in the cosmos, but if there is, God created it. This is not a biblical or apologetic issue, but these new discoveries indicate that there are limits to the environments where life can survive. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: Science News for August 28, 2021, and Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences

Difficult Genesis Issues – Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Difficult Genesis Issues - Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Several Genesis verses contain some issues that have bothered many people. For example, are we supposed to understand the ages of the people chronologically? If so, how did they live so long? Who was Cain afraid of, and where did those people come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Those are some of the difficult Genesis issues people have tried to resolve. 

The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is the product of scientists who believe in God and accept the Bible as His Word. They have advanced academic degrees, and their articles are very scholarly. Recent issues have carried some interesting discussions of difficult Genesis issues, including the account of Adam and Eve. The September issue contains an article by Dr. Roy Clouser. He contends that we have ignored the Jewish understanding of Genesis, causing credibility issues with the biblical account. Clouser maintains that the ages of biblical characters were not intended to be understood as chronological but symbolic of their character or accomplishments. For example, Methuselah living 969 years would indicate higher qualities than Adam’s 600 years. 

That is an interesting explanation. I am now 83 years old chronologically, and I cannot fathom living for 600 years. The physical weakness that comes from age seems to be built into humans as it is in the rest of the world. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they had access to the Tree of Life that would allow them to live forever. The traditional explanation that the human fall into sin brought physical death into the world for the first time has credibility issues with most people. 

Clouser makes an interesting comparison between Genesis 2:7, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and John 20:22, where Jesus breathed on His disciples. Genesis tells us that “God formed man of the dust of the ground,” clearly referring to man’s body. Then the verse says, “and man became a living soul.” Genesis 1:26-27 describes the man and woman as created in the image of God. That, of course, refers to the spiritual image because God is a Spirit and not a limited physical being. When humans sinned, God’s spirit departed from them. However, John 20:22 tells us that Jesus “breathed on them (His disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 

Other difficult Genesis issues include when Cain says, “Everyone who finds me will try to kill me” (Genesis 4:14). Who are those who would try to kill Cain, and where did they come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Cain also builds a city, and that requires large numbers of humans. My response has always been that Adam and Eve had many children in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, all of humanity rebelled against God and were forced out of the Garden and lost a relationship with God. Clouser presents a different interpretation that warrants more study. 

The fact is that the biblical account is accurate and deals with salvation through Jesus Christ. However, understanding how we got to where we are is very complex and will always leave some questions for further study. It is our understanding of the difficult Genesis issues that is in question–not the accuracy of the biblical record

— John N. Clayton © 2021